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Fireball Shooter 

Make] Projects 

Fireball Shooter 

Written By: Joel Johnson 


Hot glue gun (1) 

Soldering iron (1) 

Tubinq cutter (1) 

or have them cut it at the store 


Metal tubing (1) 

/ used 3/8"-diameter copper, but 

anvthina under 1 A>" should work fine. 


available from 


/ used 1 /4-28jam nuts. 
AAA battery holder (1) 
sinale for 1.5V alo-plua or double for 3V 
• Binder clip (1) 

big enough to snuglv hold pipe in place 

Heat-shrink tubinq M) 

Momentary pushbutton switch (1) 

Sheathed wire (1) 

Alliaator clip (1) 

Flash cotton and flash paper (1) 

made of nitrocellulose, from any maaic 


) Make Projects 

Pagel of 9 

Fireball Shooter 


A stalwart of close-quarter magicians for years, the electronic flash gun is a simple device: 
a battery-powered, hand-held ignitor that uses a "glo-plug" to light a bit of flash paper and 
cotton, shooting a fireball a few feet into the air. 

You can buy one from most magic shops for around $50, but if you build one on your own, 
you'll not only save a few bucks, you'll also learn how easy it is to add fire effects to almost 
any electronics project. (And what gadget couldn't stand a little more spurting flame?) 

I call my variant "Orpheus Shooters," after the booming voice I use before blasting a fireball 
into the air, cribbed without shame from The Venture Bros.' Doctor Byron Orpheus, my 
current favorite cartoon necromancer. 

I'm absolutely horrible at DIY — I'd solder my fingers to my face if it were possible — so if I 
can cook up something like this, you should be able to take this simple design and improve it 

My model uses a minimum of parts and is nearly concealable in my fairly large hands, but 
don't be afraid to tinker with the battery layout for maximum concealability. My grasp of the 
principles of electricity ends around "don't lick a light socket," so there may be smarter ways 
to rig this unit than the one I have chosen. 

And of course, remember your fire safety fundamentals: it may be hilarious to shoot fireballs 
at your sleeping cat, but she'll have the last caterwaul when you set your bed aflame. 

Become a Licensed Pyromancer 

A glo-plug, with its platinum heating element, is a disposable part in your Orpheus Shooter, 
or in any commercial flash gun. Glo-plugs are usually rated for about 50 ignitions, although 
mine have lasted at least twice that long. While ordering glo-plugs through the mail doesn't 
require any special registration, ordering ignitables like flash paper does. 

It's worth buying online instead of at your local magic store. My local store charged over $10 
a plug, while an online shop ( ) charged just $3. The savings were worth 
the hassle of faxing in a copy of my driver's license. 

Glo-plugs (similar to those used in model rocketry, I'm told) come in two flavors: 1.5V and 
3V. One isn't better than another for our purposes, but you'll want to match your plug to your 

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Fireball Shooter 

power source, so just be sure to remember which one you bought. 

Step 1 — Build the shooter body. 

• Cut a length of pipe with a tubing cutter, about 3" long, depending on the size of your hand. 
The length, width, and composition of your pipe isn't so important — so long as you're not 
using, say, magnesium — but anything wider than W will probably be less a "shooter" and 
more a "whoomfer." 

• Hot-glue your nut to the bottom of the pipe. This is one of two things holding the nut to the 
pipe, and as long as the glue isn't obstructing the threads on the inside, it's fine. 

• Cut a length of heat-shrink tubing, about 3 A" long. Place the heat-shrink tubing around the 
end of the nut, leaving about 1/8" over the end, so that it curls back around the nut when 

• Hit the tubing with a hair dryer or other heat source until it holds tightly around the end, 
creating a small lip that's pushed in when you screw in a glo-plug. This doesn't really do 
anything, but it looks nice. 

) Make Projects 

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Fireball Shooter 

Step 2 

• Clamp the binder clip around the pipe, leaving the arms extended together. 

• Unscrew the nut from your pushbutton switch so that the lip of the switch and the nut 
sandwich both binder clips' arms. Push the switch toward the outside loop on the binder 
clip's arms until it's firmly in place. You can later secure this with glue, should you choose. 

• Get a feel for your shooter. The only large piece missing will be your battery pack. Decide 
if you'd rather leave your battery pack off the main body of the unit — perhaps on a 
separate armband — or if you'd like to keep it all together. I chose to glue my battery pack 
to the shooter body, even though it's a pretty tight fit in my paw. 

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Fireball Shooter 

Step 3 — Wire her up. 

• Strip a small bit of sheath from the 2 wire leads coming from your battery pack. (Red is 
positive; black is negative.) 

• Solder the positive lead from the battery pack to one of the prongs on the switch. This 
should take you about 10 seconds; it took me about half an hour. I'm pretty sure desire 
repels solder. 

• Cut a length of wire about 2" long, stripping the sheathing at both ends. 

• Solder one end to your alligator clip, and solder the other end to the remaining prong on 
your switch. 

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Fireball Shooter 

Step 4 

t Cut a small square out of the heat-shrink tubing over the nut at the end of the firing pipe, 
exposing the metal below, to which you'll attach the negative (black) lead from the battery 

• A more clever maker would solder this wire to the nut. After crying many tears, I slipped 
my lead under the edge of the heat-shrink hole and hot-glued it in place. It's surprisingly 
durable, but hardly optimal. 
i Screw in your glo-plug. Insert the batteries. Attach the alligator clip to the rear prong on the 

) Make Projects 

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Fireball Shooter 

Step 5 

• Test your shooter. The glo-plug should light up in less than 1 second. If it doesn't, check 
your connections. You should be able to see the glow out of the pipe, without looking 
directly down it. 

• WARNING: Do not look down the pipe, like I do all the time! Someday I'm going to 
catch a fireball in the face. 


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Improvement Ideas 

Step 6 — Ready, fire, aim! 

• Depending on the length and width of your barrel, you'll want to adjust the amount of flash 
cotton and flash paper used. Remember to unplug the alligator clip from the glo-plug before 

• Wad a pea-sized bit of flash cotton into a loose ball, tamping it down the barrel with a 
pencil or screwdriver until it barely touches the glo-plug. 

• Fold a small square of flash paper into a missile. 

• Remember: The flash cotton is your accelerant, while the flash paper forms the fireball 
itself. You'll want the paper tight enough to fly a few feet, but loose enough to ignite 
before it leaves the tube. 

• Yell some grammatically questionable Latin and fire! Don't forget to CLEAR THE AREA 
before you do so. 

Improvement Ideas 

Commercially available flash guns sometimes have 2 barrels and 2 separate triggers. If you 
make the first Orpheus Six-Shooter, please send me video (and I'll send you a soothing hand 
salve in return). 

My body design is simple, made from parts you hopefully have around the house, but the 
professional flash guns use a metal body that holds the battery and barrel both, making them 
much more easily concealed. Pro shooters also use a press-on clip instead of an alligator clip to 
attach power to the glo-plug. Either improvement could be rigged easily by a maker more clever 

) Make Projects 

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Improvement Ideas 
than me. 

The Orpheus Shooter is just begging to be integrated into a leather glove or cane, as well. 

My next project for the Shooter: wiring it into a HobbyTron R/C Apache helicopter for remote 
firing. Why bang on your ceiling to quiet the upstairs neighbors when you can fly a chopper into 
their window and set them aflame? 

This project first appeared in MAKE Volume 13 . page 88. 

This document was last generated on 201 2-1 0-31 11 :37:00 AM. 

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